The Sibley Street reconstruction project is nearly done in the southwest quadrant of Howell, and I’m excited that my neighborhood won’t have to go without the current street ornament du jour any longer.
Yes, dear reader, my neighborhood is welcoming its very own teeny, tiny roundabout. One of my neighbors suggests we call it a “steer-about” or “swerve-about.” I prefer the term, “street-donut.” Like Shakespeare said, a street-donut by any other name will slow down traffic just the same.
And that’s a really, really good thing.
The east Sibley Street project, with its boulevard, trees and pink flowers, is simply amazing. The parking lot under construction at the corner of Sibley Street and Michigan Avenue, stretching along the entire block, is as functional as it is lovely, and merchants in the area are glad that they’ll be getting more parking spaces, not less.
More parking is entirely in keeping with Howell’s role as county seat and one of the two hearts of this community, along with Brighton. That status requires more public parking, not less, so the new parking lot in Howell is a welcome improvement. That it’s great to look at, too, is frosting on the Sibley Street project. What was once a crappy street has been transformed into something lovely, and the work will last a long time because the street is curbed and guttered.
If I had any power at all, I’d decree that all streets in cities would be curbed and guttered, with parking on both sides. The weak spot in Howell’s current street project, in this writer’s opinion, is that in some neighborhoods — like the historic Piety Hill area — swales were installed. Not quite ditches, but decidedly ditch-like, swales can’t be parked on, even though they look like they can accommodate cars. Swales mean that people in those neighborhoods now have considerably less on-street parking. And that’s not a good thing.
The Howell City Council is currently meeting with a citizens group from the swale neighborhoods, and I am crossing my fingers that a resolution can be found.
No street project is going to make everyone happy, but if a uniform standard is adopted, one that builds upon what makes cities special and accommodates that, then projects can be completed as money is available. In my fiefdom, that standard would be curbs and gutters on all streets, with parking on both sides, except when it’s logistically impossible to do.
The reality is that curbs and gutters cost a lot more than swales or mountable curbing, like on my street. Even though curbs and gutters cost a lot more initially, they are more economical in the long run. Curbs and gutters ensure that reconstructed streets last a whole lot longer by keeping water from seeping under the paving and causing the roadway to fail. For too long, we’ve been in a cycle of patching streets because of poor drainage because we don’t have enough money to do the job the right way the first time. It’s short-sighted, but until we come to grips with funding and do away with less-expensive options, like swales, patching it will be.
Until the day I become queen of the streets, we’ll have to be proud of the beautiful Sibley Street project, hope for a good and productive resolution to the swale problems, and enjoy our street-donuts (I’ll take mine with a latte from Uptown Coffeehouse).